- The Fukushima Daiichi reactors are in “a state of cold shutdown,” with temperatures at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessels and containment vessels stably below the boiling point and radiation levels at the plant boundary below 100 millirem per year. (By comparison, the average radiation level from all sources to U.S. citizens is about 400 millirem per year.) The announcement last Friday by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is a key milestone in the site’s recovery plan, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said on his first visit to the site since March.
- The Japanese government will create a new body to oversee the decontamination and decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, led by a cabinet minister and the president of Tokyo Electric Power Co. TEPCO estimates used fuel will be removed from storage pools at the plant within two years and melted fuel from the reactors within 25 years. The timetable estimates completion of site decommissioning within 40 years.
- The Japanese government will revise the designation of no-entry and evacuation zones near the Fukushima Daiichi facility. In areas where cumulative radiation exposure is less than two rem per year, the government will help residents return home as soon as possible and assist local municipalities with decontamination and repair of infrastructure. In areas where radiation levels are between two and five rem per year, evacuees will be asked to continue living elsewhere for “a few years” until the government completes decontamination and recovery work. Government assistance will be offered to those evacuees. In areas with exposure levels of more than five rem per year, evacuees will be asked to stay away for up to five years. The government will consider purchasing land and houses from residents of these areas if the evacuees wish to sell them.
- Kyushu Electric Power Co. last week submitted to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency “stress test” results for two of its reactors at Sendai and one at Genkai, showing they would withstand severe seismic and tsunami conditions. The tests are one of the preconditions for restarting reactors that have been shut for inspection. The other condition is approval of the local municipalities. Kyushu Electric, which uses nuclear energy for 40 percent of its power generation, will shut down the last of its reactors for inspection on Dec. 25.
- Dow Jones reports that the Japanese government has allocated 1.15 trillion yen ($15 billion) to decontaminate the region around the Fukushima Daiichi facility.